What the New Facebook Timeline Means for Marketers

There's been a lot of coverage regarding Facebook's recent changes, but what do these updates mean for marketers?  Overall, the key features that Facebook announced place a huge emphasis on engagement. The key takeaway is that it will be increasingly important for marketers to create and share compelling content and experiences on a consistent basis in order to stay relevant. 

Below is an overview of the main changes and their relevance for marketers.
   
Timeline: Timeline will replace users’ old profile pages, and allows users to aggregate and organize all actions taken on Facebook that matter most to them. Users can highlight important life milestones and group content and actions (videos/photos/posts) with that milestone. It also allows users to edit their timeline, even back to the time they were born. Facebook applications can also display actions taken with that app in the timeline (if user permission is granted). 

What it means for marketers: Actions that are most important to users will appear on the Timeline – think status updates and photos rather than day-to-day actions like ‘Liking’ a brand. These day-to-day actions will be shown in the Ticker (see description below). That means that brands will need to find ways to appear in the timeline, and one way to do that is by creating social applications that engage their audience. 


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Timeline cover: (increased image space to customize)
Source:  Facebook.com/about/timeline

Social Apps: Social applications allow users to add storytelling into their timeline. Think verbs instead of nouns. Instead of ‘liking’ a band, users can express they are ‘Listening’ to that band; ‘reading’ a book, ‘running’ 3 miles, etc. Additionally, now brands can create custom social actions like ‘flying’ ‘cooking’ ‘drinking’ or any other verb. These apps all utilize Facebook’s Open Graph, and users can give permission for these apps to post their activity on the Ticker and Timeline. 

What it means for marketers: Brands have the opportunity to create social actions through branded applications. The action won’t only say “Ashley ran,” but “Ashley ran 3 miles with Nike+.” All of these actions will appear in the Ticker (see below), but brands can request that the actions appear in the Timeline (increasing exposure). The goal for brands will be to generate frequent actions within users’ timelines.

In addition to creating branded applications, advertisers will be able to deliver sponsored stories against social actions, and even segment for more accuracy. For example, it will be possible to promote to all "listens" from the band Coldplay. The new sponsored stories will only be generated from applications, but advertisers don't need to own the app where the action takes place to target against the behavior. 
 

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Example of social apps within a user’s Timeline: 
Source: Facebook.com/about/timeline

News Feed update & Ticker: Facebook updated the news feed, changing how stories are presented to users. The Facebook homepage is now organized by Top Stories and Recent Stories, with Top Stories being displayed much more prominently than recent stories. The first updates that a user will see when logging in are the most relevant posts since their last visit – whether that was 3 days or 3 months ago.
   
Facebook’s algorithm will play a role in determining what are “Top Stories,” but users are able to edit their feeds, either by unmarking a Top Story, or marking a Recent Story as a Top Story. (Screenshot below). Facebook will then learn from this behavior and serve the most relevant content as Top Stories. 
 
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Ticker – Facebook has also added the “Ticker” to the top right corner of the newsfeed. The Ticker streams live updates – think day-to-day activities like tagging a photo, liking a brand, commenting, and other Open Graph actions. The thought here is that less important updates are displayed in real time, and don’t distract users from the more relevant stories. Users can join the conversation by clicking on one of the stories in the Ticker.

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What it means for marketers: Users now have more control over their news feed, so it becomes more important for brands to share compelling content (rich media, like photos and videos, help to naturally boost EdgeRank – Facebooks algorithm). Brands with irrelevant updates will have lower visibly (but will still appear in the Ticker). Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm will play a major role in determining whether brand updates are seen, but branded social applications and sponsored stories can increase the likelihood of a brand message reaching a mass audience. 

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Here are some resources for more information:

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2011/09/22/Facebook-f8-Timeline-Announcement.aspx

http://mashable.com/2011/09/22/facebooks-changes-marketers/

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/Facebook-Timeline-Social-Apps-Branding.aspx

http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-feedback-loop-2011-09

What do you think about Facebook's changes?  Let us know in the comments below, or reach out to us on Twitter at @ashleyhreed or @accarrino.

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Why People Like Brands On Facebook

In order to maintain a successful Facebook fan page, it’s important to understand what your fans are looking for. According to a recent ExactTarget study, the number one reason for “liking” a brand on Facebook is receiving discounts and promotions. Showing support for the company to others came in a close second, at 39%. 


What does this mean for brands? First, discounts and promotions are strong incentives for encouraging users to ‘like’ your page– after all, who doesn’t love free stuff?  A giveaway can be an effective tactic for increasing your Facebook fans, especially when you’re in the early stages of building your community.  Offer exclusive promotions that are only available to your Facebook fans.  As an example, Ford unveiled their 2011 Explorer exclusively on their fan page, giving away a free Explorer to one lucky fan.  Their fan page reached 30,000 fans prior to the unveiling, and currently has more than 62,500 fans.

Additionally, consider creating a message calendar and planning your promotions in advance to maximize buzz for upcoming giveaways, contests, etc.  Make sure to advertise your upcoming Facebook promotions on your blog, website, email list, tv and print assets, in addition to your other social networks. This will ultimately increase participation as well as grow your Facebook fan base. 

While discounts and promotions are tempting incentives, 39% of users ‘like’ brands’ on Facebook simply to publicly show support for the company.  Essentially, your Facebook fans are your number one advocates - they promote your brand for you - at absolutely no cost! With word-of-mouth recommendations being the most trusted form of advertising, Facebook fans can have a huge impact for your brand.  



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Delta First to Sell Flights From Facebook

Delta Airlines just launched their “Ticket Window” Facebook application, allowing users to find, book and share flights with friends without ever leaving Facebook.  Powered by Alvenda, the application is the first to allow users to book a flight within Facebook without being directed to an outside site. Delta’s Ticket Window is located on Delta’s Facebook page under the “Book a Trip” tab, but Delta hopes to eventually expand it to banner ads.

Although Delta wasn’t an early adopter of social media like Southwest or JetBlue, it appears that they are beginning to realize the immense opportunities that social media presents. 



Usage statistics from Delta’s Wi-Fi network show that Facebook is the most trafficked website in-flight. Through applications like the Ticket Window, Delta is hoping to take advantage of this large audience by making it easy for customers to transact and make travel adjustments in flight via Facebook.

We 'Like' this move. What do you think? Would you book a flight on Facebook?


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How Brands Can Benefit from Pegshot

You’ve probably heard about location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla, but have you tried Pegshot yet? Instead of answering the question “Where are you?”, Pegshot tells your friends “What’s happening where you are?” by enabling users to quickly share videos and photos with their social networks.  The application allows users to “peg” a shot from their location and post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Digg and Posterous in real-time.  

There are many ways in which brands can take advantage of Pegshot to increase awareness and engagement with their organization. Pegshot is especially well-suited for promoting events as it facilitates quick and easy sharing of photos and videos in real-time, allowing immediate visibility on the social web.  This means your audience can interact with your events while they are happening even if they cannot be there. 

Real-time sharing also increases pass along rates since, attendees are usually active on social networks at events and can quickly view your content and re-tweet it, “Like” or comment on it.  Not only can content be published on your social media accounts, but Pegshot even allows you to post photos and videos directly to your company’s website.  In most cases, companies allow only their employees to publish content to their website to ensure that all material is appropriate.   

To take advantage of Pegshot at your next event, follow these easy steps:

1. Create your event.


Add your event by filling out the details of your event including the name, date, your Twitter hashtag, and location.  Your event will appear on any user’s mobile device in the surrounding area.

2.  Create a branded landing page for your event.


You can create a custom branded landing page for you event or choose your Twitter background.




3. Promote your event and add contributors.


Pegshot offers a custom registration page so you can collect as many contributors as possible. You can use this custom landing page to promote your event across social networks as well as your website, email and print marketing initiatives. 






4. Capture your event as it’s happening. 


Now you’re ready to begin pegging photos and videos of your event in real-time.  Your contributors as well as any Pegshot users in the vicinity can share content of your event which will be displayed on your custom landing page in addition to social networks and your website (if permission is granted.)


 


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Best Practices for Facebook Pages

Major brands are increasingly turning to Facebook to reach consumers and engage them deeper.  In order to get the most out of your Facebook presence, be sure to formulate a strategy.  What do you hope to get out of your Facebook Page?

Facebook Pages can be used for:
  • Building brand awareness
  • Increasing consumer engagement with your brand
  • Generating leads
  • Qualifying fans and converting them to customers
  • Improving customer service
  • Establishing your company as a thought leader
Once you’ve defined your goals, keep in mind these Do’s and Don’ts for engagement:

Do:
  • “Listen” to what your fans are talking about on your page – do they have praise or complaints?Identify what interests them and customize your messages accordingly.
  • Post compelling content like pictures and videos that keep them coming back for more.
  • Share exclusive content that they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Utilize Facebook applications like surveys, quizzes and games that foster an interactive experience.
  • Use Facebook’s analytics tool to determine what tactics are working, and which one’s aren’t.
  • Promote your Fan Page everywhere: print, online and TV advertisements, email signatures, business cards and targeted Facebook ads
Don’t:
  • Automate your content – Facebook is about conversation!
  • Sound impersonal - use a casual and informal tone.
  • Sound like a press release.
  • Spam your fans – maintain a balance of promotional and conversational posts.
  • Neglect your Fan Page – make sure you are monitoring it on a daily basis to respond to fans and post new content

Have more tips to add?  Leave a comment below!
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Measuring Social Media ROI (Yes, It's Possible)

The following is an abbreviated step-by-step guide to measuring social media ROI.

Step 1: Define Goals & Success Metrics

The first step of ROI measurement is defining your goals.  What do you hope to accomplish by being active in the social space?  One problem is that brands launch social campaigns without clearly identifying or understanding their goals, which makes measuring success difficult (if not impossible).  

Here are a few examples of social media goals:
•    Expand brand or product awareness
•    Increase engagement with brand
•    Generate qualified leads
•    Drive sales
•    Build community
•    Create brand advocates
•    Qualify fans and convert them to customers
•    Improve customer satisfaction
•    Establish company as a thought leader
•    Attract talent

Once goals have been defined, the next step is determining the appropriate success metrics that align with these goals. For example, if a goal is to increase brand awareness, metrics might include the volume of online discussion or “buzz” about your brand, the level of audience engagement (re-tweets, comments, posts, video views), the number of fans, followers, etc. and the number of user impressions.

The following are examples of social media success metrics:
•    Volume of  online “buzz” about a brand
•    Volume of positive sentiment
•    Number of fans, followers, readers (or number of high-quality/targeted fans)
•    Engagement (number of video views, duration of views, time spent on the company blog site, time spent playing a company’s branded game application, etc.)
•    Volume of user comments posted to company blog, profile or posted content
•    Retweet or peer-sharing statistics for related content and posts
•    Comment or retweet resonation (number of user comments multiplied by
    how many followers or friends each user has)
•    Media coverage
•     Media impressions (mentions on blogs or other media multiplied by the size
    of the audience)
•    Quantity of new or qualified sales leads (referred from social sites)
•    Website Referral Traffic (from social sites)
•    Advertising click-through rates
•    Volume of customer service issues handled

Step 2: Establish a Baseline
In order to effectively measure success, make sure to first establish a baseline by determining your current position within the social landscape.  For instance, if your goal is to increase awareness and you will be tracking the amount of “buzz” or mentions about your brand, you must first know what the current levels are before taking actions to reach that goal.  Without establishing this baseline, it’s difficult to accurately show ROI.

There are a variety of analytics tools available to help with social media measurement.  I won’t go into too much detail here (there are dozens of options), but a few of these include Google Analytics, Social Mention, Viral Heat, Scout Labs, Radian6, and Listen Logic.  These tools can be used to gather key social media metrics and help you identify strengths and weaknesses of your social presence.

Step 3: Measure and Track Success

After you launch your social media program, begin the measurement process to track success.  Gather the success metrics from your analytics tools and start to see how (or if) they correlate to higher sales, increased customer satisfaction, website traffic, store traffic, etc.  Try to identify trends where possible. Does positive consumer sentiment or an increase in chatter about your brand lead to higher website/store traffic, leads or sales?  Recognizing these trends and identifying their point of origin is key in measuring social media ROI.  

(Image Credit: "Basics of Social Media ROI," by Oliver Blanchard)


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